Supervisors approve additional fair funding

Mona Hill
Staff Writer


Fair manager John Steffanic appeared before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Feb. 15, to explain circumstances leading up to his request for $77,445 from the county’s contingency funds.

Most of the money, $72,445, is to meet payroll through the end of the fiscal year. Steffanic said the remaining balance, $5,000, was to ensure the fair had funds to pay its electric bill.

Steffanic said the shortfall was the result of several factors, primarily poor attendance at grandstand events at last year’s fair.

The Trailer Choir concert, expected to draw crowds and dramatically add to fair revenue, resulted in a large loss.

Steffanic prepared his original budget based on projected profits that did not materialize.

For the 2010-11 budget, Steffanic requested a county contribution of $73,000. The actual county contribution was $23,000, down from $90,000 in fiscal year 2009-10.

Steffanic said that at the time, he understood the funding difference to be the result of an outstanding payment from the state of California.

He added that as part of her work to balance the fair’s budget, Plumas County Auditor Shawn Montgomery took the $50,000 out of “our payroll budget when we needed to get that in, obviously, to make it through the rest of the year for payroll.”

“When I put in my budget, we took out the one full-time employee and then found out after the budget was in we could keep the employee until September and we were never able to put those funds back into the payroll budget.

“I thought … it looks like if all these things come through, I only need $23,000, so I’ve got this room.”

Chief Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad interjected at that point. He said, “If you do give money to the fair without restructuring, you’re determining that’s a priority and want us to find cuts (to make) elsewhere as we begin next year.”

He explained people often think contingency money is similar to extra money or a reserve. It’s actually unallocated funds. Money remaining in the contingency fund at the end of the year is the starting balance for the following year.

“One issue is that when you have a mid-year correction, you’re going to have to determine priorities,” he said. “If you take it from contingency, then it’s gone.”

Chairwoman Lori Simpson wanted to know if Ingstad was proposing restructuring the fair now. Before Ingstad could respond, Steffanic said he guaranteed it would be restructured next year.

At that point, Supervisor Sherrie Thrall wanted to know how the payroll budget was miscalculated. Steffanic told her human resources supplied the figures and he deducted for the laid-off employee.

Ingstad explained that when a department budget is out of balance, the auditor reduces the largest line item expense amount until revenues and expenses agree, then returns it to the department head for additional work, rather than tell him how to spend department funds.

At that point, Ingstad and Steffanic agreed: The fair manager should have come back to talk to the board.

Simpson told Steffanic if the board agreed to fund the $77,000, it meant a position at the fair next year, implying the county’s contribution would be reduced by $77,000.

During public comment on the issue, an audience member asked what Sierra County contributed toward the fair.

Steffanic said Sierra County contributed $5,000. He added that the fair board recently seated a Sierra County representative for the first time in years. Barbara Butterfield has pledged to convince Sierra County to increase its contribution. One audience wit suggested “$77,000!”

With that, Supervisor Terry Swofford moved to fund the fair; it was seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

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